Short supply of Point of Sale (PoS) machines is slowing down the government's direct benefit transfers (DBT) for fertiliser subsidy with not even half of the total two lakh retail outlets selling fertiliser receiving the machines, delaying the scheduled June 1 rollout.
Government sources said three PoS suppliers, who have got contracts, have told the fertiliser ministry there is huge demand for the machines and they are struggling to meet requirements. "We have set a June 30 deadline for supply of the entire lot of PoS devices. They have assured the deadline will be met. We are hopeful of a roll out from next month," a ministry official said.
Officials said progress of installation of PoS machines is better in north-eastern states, Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. It is less than 50% in southern states and these remain a matter of concern for the pan-India rollout of the ambitious scheme.
Retail fertiliser outlets equipped with PoS machines will be able to read buyers' Aadhaar cards. As the farmer buys, the difference between market rate and the subsidised amount will be credited to the bank account of the manufacturer concerned. Unlike other DBTs where the subsidy is directly transferred to beneficiary accounts, in this case the subsidy will go to the manufacturer.
Sources said records of sales and purchase will bring transparency about the quantity of fertilisers that companies are selling to farmers. They expect this will reduce the total sale by 10-15% and thereby reducing burden on the exchequer by about Rs 6,000 crore annually.
"This system of transferring subsidy to company will continue till we have a clear definition of who is a farmer - the tiller or the land owner - which the agriculture ministry has to spell out. The present scheme is based on no denial policy where anyone can buy fertiliser after giving details of his Aadhaar card. Once the beneficiaries are identified, the subsidy will be transferred to their bank accounts," said an official.